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Manassas Hosts Region’s Largest Veterans Day Parade

By Abbey Howarth, Contributing Writer

On Nov. 9 at 11 a.m., the streets of Old Town Manassas will transform into a celebration of pride and patriotism, as area

Photo courtesy VETPAR, INC
Photo courtesy VETPAR, INC

residents gather for the Greater Manassas Veterans Day Parade, reported to be the largest Veterans Day parade in Northern Virginia and the Washington, D.C., area.

“It places the City of Manassas as the epicenter for area patriotism and recognizing area veterans’ sacrifice,” said Paul Locigno, spokesperson for the Greater Manassas Veterans Day Parade  Committee.

This is the fifth anniversary of the parade, which is organized by local Post 10 of The American Legion. Officially named the Robert V. McMaugh Memorial Post, it is located near Old Town Manassas.

Each year, the parade grows in both participants and viewers, according to Locigno, who said the annual event has attracted up to an estimated 6,000 people in years past.

Ginger Harvey, publicity and media contact for the parade since it began in 2009, added that spectators young and old will be interested in the antique and modern military vehicles as well as the local high school bands, dance troupes, military personnel, pipe and drum corps and police and fire color guards marching in the parade. The event is free and open to the public. Harvey, a Nokesville resident and a longtime supporter of the Manassas event, called the parade “a moving experience.”

Special Tribute for Desert Shield/ Desert Storm Vets

Event coordinators select one military conflict to specifically recognize at each parade, Locigno said. World War II was featured in 2009, Korea in 2010, Vietnam in 2011 and the Cold War in 2012.

The 2013 parade will contain a special tribute to those who served in U.S. operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Desert Shield was the U.S. buildup of forces in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia’s defense from August 1990 to mid-January 1991.

Operation Desert Storm immediately followed, kicking off the Persian Gulf War with a 42-day massive U.S.-led air offensive in Kuwait against Iraqi forces.

Only One Grand Marshal This Year

P1010940Breaking from tradition, the parade will have one grand marshal this year. Past parades have each had five grand marshals, one from each branch of service, Locigno said. The committee selects each parade’s grand marshals, highly decorated officers, from throughout the region based on the conflict that they served in, according to a statement from the parade committee.

This year, the committee named Joseph Ortiz, an E-5 enlisted U.S. Army veteran and resident of Manassas, as the 2013 parade’s sole grand marshal. “As a community, we are honored to have Mr. Ortiz as our grand marshal this year,” Harvey said.

“[We are] convinced of the importance of highlighting the selfless contributions of the Desert Shield and Desert Storm citizen- veterans who chose—at great sacrifice—to place family, education and career advancement unselfishly behind to serve our nation in a time of need,” said the parade committee in a prepared statement to the media.

Ortiz served with distinction in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm as a crew chief on a helicopter in 4/7 Cavalry, according to information on the parade website. He’s an active member of The American Legion Post 10 as well as the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Reminder of What’s Important

While veterans of these conflicts will receive special attention at this year’s parade, the annual event will honor all U.S. military veterans, past and present.

“It continues the storied military history of the City of Manassas by marching on the same street as the Union soldiers marched on when debarking the trains from Washington for both battles of Bull Run,” Locigno said.

“You feel like you’ve gone back in time,” stated Woodbridge resident Jen Jones, who said she attends the event every year. “Seeing the veterans walk through the streets of Old Town takes you back to a simpler time and reminds you of what’s important,” she said.

Of the parade and other Veterans Day celebrations, Locigno said, “It’s important for the public to recognize that many of their family members, friends and neighbors [in the military] sacrificed their youth and well-being and placed educational and career opportunities on hold in service to their country.”

Finally Being Recognized

Harvey, who has family ties to the event, appreciates this. “The parade is such an inspiration for the individuals honored, their families and to the community,” she said.

Harvey’s father, Darrell Harvey, has marched in every Greater Manassas Veterans Day Parade with members of his chapter, the 617 Vietnam Veterans of America, which includes veterans from throughout Prince William and also the Stafford and Fredericksburg areas, the older Harvey said. Each year, about 10 chapter members march alongside a vehicle adorned with banners reading “VVA Chapter 617.”

For Harvey and other veterans who served in Vietnam, returning to the United States after combat was far from a warm reception, he recalled. With the political turmoil surrounding the conflict, Harvey remembered, “People would spit on us.” More than 40 years later, the annual parade is quite the departure. “It’s a good feeling to know that we’re finally being recognized,” he said. “It’s real rewarding to hear people clapping for you.”

Arrive Early and Listen

In addition to showing her appreciation for members of the military, Jones said she attends the parade to learn from them. “It’s fun to hear history from the people who experienced it,” she said.

Jones’ advice to would-be parade goers is to get an early start, arriving before traffic picks up and parking spots become scarce. Then choose a breakfast spot along the parade route. She said veterans will fill many of the nearby restaurants.

Her go-to is Deli Depot, a veteran-owned restaurant on Center Street that serves a special buffet before the parade. “It’s fun to sit there and listen to the veterans … [and get] a massive history lesson from many different time periods, and to hear the differences—people who have fought in the desert, Pacific Rim, Europe,” said Jones.

The parade starts at the intersection of Quarry Road and Prescott Avenue, and then marches down Center Street, ending just past West Street. More information on the parade, including a map of the parade route, is available at

Lifelong Prince William resident Abbey Howarth recently graduated from e College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, with a bachelor’s degree in art and art history. Her work has been published in national publications, including USA Today College. She operates Soccer for Success, a nonprofit agency bringing soccer to elementary students in under-served areas. She can be reached at [email protected].

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